Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is located in the extreme northern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The park sits along a smaller land peninsula surrounded by the water of Lake Superior on one side and by Lake Fanny Hooe on the other side. The park operates year round from morning until dusk. Some facilities are open in the winter, while others are only available during the park’s operating season. RVers who want scenic waterfront views will find Fort Wilkins a mix of beauty and charm with the amenities of home.
Fort Wilkins earned the title of a Historic State Park because of the history of military presence at the facility. In the mid-1800s, the United States Government built a fort on what is now state park property. The purpose of the fort was to support and protect a copper shipping route and police the local indigenous community who were still impacted by the War of 1812. The fort remained active until the United States went to war with Mexico, and during that time, only one person stayed to care for the facility. Soon after, the American Civil War broke out, and it wasn’t until after the war was over that the post regained occupants, who were soldiers sent to serve out the rest of their enlistment. In 1870, the post permanently closed and was abandoned until 1932 when it became a state park and went under restoration efforts.
Today, many of the fort’s original buildings, including the Copper Lighthouse, still stand. The history combined with the beauty and the recreation of the park make it one of the more unique state parks in the area, and a must see in the Upper Peninsula.
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park is located in Michigan’s extreme Upper Peninsula. The park is located 257 miles north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. From Michigan, the park is located 206 miles north of Escanaba, and 428 miles northwest of Traverse City. Some routes may require tolls.
Michigan State Parks require that park guests pay a daily entrance fee upon entering the park. Pay the fee at the entrance station. If a park ranger isn’t on duty, use one of the self-pay kiosks.
The Fort Wilkins Modern Campground is a reservable, seasonally operated campground. This pet-friendly facility has sites that offer RVs and trailers many different camping options from shaded and full-sun sites to dirt, grass, and gravel spaces. The largest site accommodates RVs up to 96 feet in length, but the majority of the areas are for smaller rigs. Each site has 20 and 30 amp electrical hookups with select spaces offering 50 amp electricity. Hydrants are placed around the campground, so campers don’t have far to go to get water. All campsites have a firepit, and the campground offers guests modern restrooms, dumpsters, firewood, and a dump station. Guests who need to use a generator should do so only in a manner that won’t disrupt other campers.
Step back in time to the year 1870 and become a part of the park’s history through the Living History Program. During the summer months, park interpreters dress and act as members of the military garrison and teach guests using characterization and interaction. While listening and connecting with the cast, visitors will simultaneously learn about the period in and around the American Civil War, and the role that Fort Wilkins played during this critical time in the country’s history. Contact the park for information on the dates and the times when the program comes to life.
Hikers have many choices of trails to explore when visiting Fort Wilkins. For hikers who don’t want to leave the park’s boundaries, the four-mile out and back walking trail that runs parallel to the park’s boundaries. This path is a perfect short hike that provides scenic views of Lake Fanny Hooe and Lake Superior. For longer, more rigorous hikes and backpacking excursions, try the sections of the 51.7-mile Keweenaw State Trail or the three-mile Copper Harbor Trail. Both trails are close to the park, so visitors don’t have to travel far to access a trailhead.
While visiting Fort Wilkins take the time to experience the rich history of the park by visiting one of the fifteen historical buildings. The buildings accommodate people of all ages and abilities. Each building or point of interest has accessible parking. Copper Lighthouse is also a favorite place for guests to visit. The buildings and the lighthouse operate seasonally, so if you plan to visit during the off-season, be aware that some of the facilities might not be open. For hours of operation, contact the park.
If you crave outdoor activities year-round, and you can’t wait for the weather to warm to head out to the trails, then consider taking up the sport of cross country skiing. Skiers who prefer ungroomed trails can stick to the four miles of multi-use trails that run along the park’s boundaries, or try some of the groomed and ungroomed trails nearby. The Copper Harbor trails begin at the trailhead behind the Copper Harbor Welcome Center, and these trails are multi-looped trails that offer skiers many different routes. The trailhead is close to heated restrooms and parking. Skiers who want more details can pick up a laminated map from some of the local shops.
Lake Fanny Hooe is an ideal fishing location because guests have the choice to fish from the shore, a pier, or a boat. The 227-acre lake allows fishing year round. So whether you are a fair-weather fisher or an ice fisher, you have plenty of opportunities to try and catch a yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, brook trout or rainbow trout. Anglers may use different types of bait, such as artificial bait, worms or minnows. If you plan on fishing, please note that the state of Michigan requires that all anglers 17 and older possess a valid fishing license.
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park has so many things to see and do, that campers staying here might forget about one of the most important aspects of camping, which is getting outside and enjoying nature. The day use areas within the park help campers unwind and relax next to Lake Superior or Lake Fanny Hooe. The park has plenty of wildlife and birds passing through, so why not have a picnic lunch next to the lighthouse and then take a walk to visit the park store, and then meander back to more of the scenic viewpoints while keeping a watch for your favorite animals?